Global solidarity needed in preparing for pandemic influenza

February 15, 2007

WHO should seek an international agreement to ensure developing countries have access to a pandemic influenza vaccine at an affordable price, according to an Editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet.

Two disturbing problems about the availability of a vaccine for the next human influenza pandemic exist. Firstly, to protect the global population 6.2 billion doses of pandemic vaccine would be needed, but under current manufacturing capacity, the world can only produce 500 million doses. Secondly, it is industrialised countries that will have access to the available vaccines, whereas developing countries--where the pandemic is likely to emerge--will be left wanting.

Last week, Indonesia fearing that vaccines produced from their viruses via the WHO system* would not be affordable to them, made a controversial decision not to share its N5N1 virus samples with WHO--instead it is planning to provide a US pharmaceutical company with the strains in exchange for technology to manufacture a pandemic vaccine.

The Lancet concludes: "Indonesia fears that vaccines produced via the WHO system will not be affordable to them...The fairest way forward would be for WHO to seek an international agreement that would ensure developing countries have access to a pandemic vaccine, at an affordable price. Such a move would demonstrate global solidarity in preparing for the next pandemic."
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The Lancet press office T) +44(0)207 424 4949/4249 pressoffice@lancet.com

Notes to Editors * WHO virus-sharing system--influenza viruses are donated by countries and flow freely to the global community for public-health purposes, including vaccine development.

Lancet

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